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Let’s Break Down Dead Island 2’s Gnarly, ‘Anatomically Correct’ Flesh System

Dambuster Studios’ hotly anticipated sequel is heavy on the guts and chunks

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Zombies lie on the floor in Dead Island 2.
Image: Dambuster Studios

Zombie-spotted action-adventure Dead Island 2 spent the last nine years pinballing between studios—original developer Techland, then Yager Development, then Sumo Digital, and finally Dambuster, which has ties to the TimeSplitters series in its former, ‘00s life as Free Radical Design. Recently, it gained enough speed to pick up a real release date for next month, development…not quite hell, let’s call it purgatory, and a sickening flesh system. Yeah, “flesh system.”

That’s how Dambuster is describing the procedures responsible for its fall-off-the-bone combat graphics—layers of skin that blow away in lumps, like a too-tall mound of whipped cream, and springy eyeballs. Regardless of whether or not you’ve maintained your enthusiasm for this sequel (Dead Island: Riptide was more of a disappointing expansion than a true sequel) in the near full decade since its announcement, its next-gen macabre “flesh system” deserves some of your attention, or, at least, your gag reflex. I put together everything you need to know about it and other Dead Island 2 basics.


When is Dead Island 2 coming out?

It’s releasing a week ahead of its most recently announced release date—April 21 instead of April 28.

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What consoles will Dead Island 2 be on?

PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC.

OK, cool. What is a “flesh system,” and is it illegal?

I’m glad you asked. It’s gross but way more legal than some videos I’ve seen on YouTube in 2007.

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The game’s “flesh” system apparently stands for “Fully Locational Evisceration System for Humanoids,” game director David Stenton told IGN in 2022. It’s a procedural system the developers applied to all enemies in the game, and it creates a “progressive effect,” senior render programmer Aaron Ridge told Game Informer last month, “so you can continue to damage in many, many different ways.”

That means zombies plod toward you even after you smack their jaw off their face, jam-red blood rushing from their emptied eye sockets until you pound into them again—with a blade? A baseball bat? The two-prong Eye Opener, perhaps?—and see their rotting bodies respond accordingly. More skin sheds. Blood bursts. Their skull cracks and caves. Barf!

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A zombie breaks through a glass wall.
Image: Dambuster Studios

But also cool if you’re a fan of Cronenberg freakishness in your games, like me. Dead Island 2’s developers are certainly seeming to relish it, telling press at a presentation this week that, in the game, “anatomically correct layers of skin fat and muscle can be ripped away with machete-point accuracy to reveal breakable bones and internal organs that are individually destructible.”

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“Sharp weapons can dismember heads or limbs at any point and slice torsos clean in half, utilizing advanced fluid and soft body physics,” they said.

Even after you take a zombie down, you can continue to hack through its layers of skin, fat, and muscle, until you finally hit a sturdy bone. You can crack that off and discard it, too. There’s no limit on how far you can go—the flesh system lets you mince even zombie hearts if you want to.

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It turns the game into a butcher shop floor. It gives you the “real feeling that zombies are made of something,” Ridge told Game Informer, “that they’ve got bits inside of them, and they’re a volume of mass.” More darkly, technical art director Dan Evans-Lawes told Game Informer that the flesh system also reminds players that these monsters were once “people who used to actually live in LA before the zombie outbreak happened.”

“They’re recognizable as that,” he said. “They feel like people.” The fascination of the abomination, indeed.

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Is there a less disgusting new feature in Dead Island 2?

There is, yes. Instead of the original and Riptide’s skill trees, to lead you through combat, the game will use collectible cards, or skill cards, that grant buffs and abilities you can add to a customizable deck. Like the original, though, Dead Island 2 will have several playable protagonists, multiplayer options, and fragile weaponry.